They are supposed to be electricians, bringing power back to the emergency ward. They are supposed to be washermen, who can be pulled up for dirty linen. They are supposed to be technicians, responsible for the ventilators in a state of disrepair. They are supposed to be everything, except doctors, as they don’t know that “treatment MUST start with a bottle of saline”.
For post-graduate trainees, house-staff and interns — who are clubbed together as ‘junior doctors’ and without whom the state-run hospitals will even stop limping — every day of their apprenticeship comes with a new and, more often than not, nasty lesson.
From being blamed for the PWD’s failure to prevent taps from running dry to the health department’s failure to upgrade the infrastructure, they are the fall-guy foot-soldiers in a lose-lose battle.
“Bijli kyon nahin hai, bulao doctoron ko (Why isn’t there any power here, summon the doctors),” was the shout that Sourav Datta, an intern at NRS Medical College and Hospital, and his colleagues heard while waiting for power to return to the emergency wing a few days ago. When asked how doctors could bring back power, they got their answer: “Hajar-hajar taka maine nish, tai (You get paid in thousands, that’s why).”
Cut to Shambhunath Pandit Hospital, where a 19-year-old girl — who had gulped down some kerosene — was brought to post-graduate trainee Subhendu Chaudhuri. Sensing that it was a case of attempted suicide, he asked the youth accompanying the patient to bring a “member of the family”. What he got in return from the ‘boyfriend’ and his angry friends was a volley of abuse for the doctor’s “temerity” in asking for a family member. With no help in sight, the junior doctor backed down.
Junior doctors say they have become habituated to this constant humiliation and insecurity. But that’s not the only bitter pill their job forces them to swallow almost every day — they also have to take “medical advice” from patients referred by “Writers’ Buildings officials”.
A month ago, bed no. 11 (paying) of the Nilratan Sirkar male medicine department received a patient who had just survived a stroke. The patient’s family raised a ruckus, as no saline was being given. “You don’t know anything, how can treatment start without saline'” they demanded, deaf to pleas that such a patient did not require saline.
Junior doctors say the RG Kar backlash against patients on Saturday night, though instigated by “outsiders”, was waiting to happen. “Why should doctors take the blame for the crumbling infrastructure and indisciplined staff'” asked Mridul Sarkar, a recent pass-out from RG Kar, summing up the sentiments of junior doctors.